My week almost always shapes up to be a hectic one. I usually have general body meetings, committee meetings, board meetings, team meetings, updates with administrators, Undergraduate Assembly Steering, University Council and a hodge-podge of other commitments. Then there is my work-study job, which averages about 17 hours a week. Oh yeah, and then I have class.
Ultimately, this all adds up to a pretty packed schedule. At times I’ve found myself sitting down and wondering, “Is this all really worth it?” That’s the question that I asked myself when I began writing this column, and I think it’s a problem that confronts many other students as they choose whether or not to become involved in student organizations.
Invariably I end up committing at least 10 hours a week toward meetings. For a college student who should be spending that time in the library, this is a huge chunk of time. Considering how expensive an education is, shouldn’t I spend more time focusing on schoolwork?
Armed with this question, I set out to interview recent alumni who held leadership positions while they were on campus. I wanted to know what they had actually taken away from their roles. Additionally, I wanted to know if their status as leaders on campus had any impact on what they did post-Penn.
Looking back on these questions, I’m sure that they came up as a result of me being a terrified senior realizing that I have no marketable skills. But I digress.
Former Undergraduate Assembly Chairman, 2009 College and Wharton graduate Wilson Tong, thought that his leadership experience at Penn positively impacted his undergraduate experience. “I’d say what I learned most and what was most meaningful about being involved at Penn was learning how to work and communicate with all different types of people,” he said. “I think that everyone likes to be understood, heard and considered, even if an outcome isn’t optimal — and that’s something I think extracurriculars taught me from a practical standpoint.”
Former UMOJA board member, 2009 College graduate Erica Evans, agreed with Tong, though she added some caveats. Evans focused on the difficulty of transitioning from a position of leadership to a position that is on the lower end of the hierarchy, as it is in the real world, noting that it’s difficult “when you see room for improvement, or a need for change, not to want to facilitate some sort of action that will make the place that you are in a better place.”
In my brief contacts with other recent grads, it quickly became apparent to me that their experiences as leaders of student organizations had an overwhelmingly-positive impact on their undergraduate experience.
Back to my original question. Is it worth it? Is being highly involved on Penn’s campus worth the draining time commitment it entails? Ultimately, I would have to say yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt.
Sure, my GPA has suffered. And I don’t have as much time as I would like to just hang out with friends and relax. But in the end, I think that all my extracurriculars have provided me with experiences that will ultimately justify the lost time that I could have spent watching Mad Men.
Over and over, I have heard people say that their positions at the helm of student organizations have taught them more than their classes have. I completely agree with this statement. If you’re reading this column (and hopefully a significant amount of you are or else my editor is going to give me the ax) and you’re considering running for a position, here is my advice: run. Chances are you will love it, and the experience will make you a better person.
I can only hope that potential employers will agree with everything written above. Let’s be honest: I need a job. And here’s to hoping that Lambda will get me a job offer.
Dennie Zastrow is a College senior from Wilson, NY. He is chairman of the Lambda Alliance. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgComments powered by Disqus
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